NEW YORK CITY -- A global coffee supply glut and accelerated cocoa bean harvest are driving down the commodities' prices, which could boost margins for vending and office coffee service operators who make large wholesale purchases.
Bumper coffee harvests in Brazil, the world's largest coffee producer, and Colombia have bolstered output by nearly 8% this year. Global production is set to exceed demand for the fourth straight season, pushing inventories to a five-year high, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Coffee prices fell 23% in 2013, marking the third straight year of declines and a 54% drop since late 2010. During the past three months, coffee prices as measured by the ICE futures contract fell 6¢, or 5%, finishing the fourth quarter at $1.11 a pound.
Arabica coffee for March delivery fell 3.5% to $1.107 a pound on ICE futures U.S. in New York. Robusta futures for March delivery dipped 0.6% to $1,683 a metric ton on NYSE Liffe in London, dipping 13% this year after rising 6.3% in 2012. The arabica premium to robusta averaged 42.41¢ a pound this year, down from 84.16¢ in 2012.
According to a recent USDA report, total world production of coffee for the year ending Sept. 30 is projected at 150.4 million 60kg. bags. Brazil is expected to produce 53.1 million bags, down slightly from last year, and Vietnam's production is projected to climb 9% to 28.5 million bags. Total world demand is expected to be 144.4 million bags.
The USDA estimates total global production will exceed demand by 6.04 million bags in the 2013-2014 season, following a surplus of 11.06 million a year earlier. Stockpiles are projected to reach 36.33 million bags, the highest level in five years. Meanwhile, the demand from coffee-consuming countries remains relatively flat, according to USDA's report.
Improved growing conditions in Brazil are expected to boost crop production to 49.2 million bags, higher than a previous estimate of 47.5 million, which could push prices even lower. Vietnam's robusta crop in 2012-2013 was larger than anticipated and market analysts anticipate a record crop this year.
An outbreak of the "coffee rust" leaf disease threatened crops in Central America, but the USDA says declines in that region will be more than offset by coffee production elsewhere.
Meanwhile, cocoa prices fell this month on speculation that supplies of the commodity will improve as dry weather is enabling producers in the Ivory Coast and Ghana to accelerate harvesting of crops.
Cocoa bean stockpiles monitored by ICE futures U.S. are expected to see their first monthly gain since May and are reportedly at the highest level since mid-November. Prices spiked 21% this year amid concern that supplies would fall short of demand.
However, cocoa futures for March delivery fell 2.6% to settle at $2,712 a metric ton, the biggest decline since mid-August.
Despite the near-term boost from the dry weather, the cocoa supply in the longer term appears tighter than that of coffee, with global demand it expected to outpace supply by 70,000 metric tons this year.